Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Facing increasingly overworked doctors and labyrinthine insurance systems, hospitals are searching for a lifeline in AI systems that promises to ease hard diagnoses and treatment decisions.

Reality check: The data underpinning the very first systems is often spotty, volatile and completely lacking in critical context, leading to a poor early record in the field.

The big picture: Basic clinical decision support (CDS) systems have been around for decades, but a skepticism of technology leads many doctors to ignore or override them. Now, experts say a nascent generation of CDS — infused with AI in academic labs and startups — may reduce the estimated 40,000–80,000 deaths a year that result from medical errors.

  • The grand vision: Researchers hope AI programs can point doctors toward the best medications, lab tests or treatment plans based on minute patterns discovered in huge numbers of patients' past experiences.
  • Last week, we reported on the promise of combining pools of private data to strengthen AI systems, feeding them with ever more examples of past outcomes.
  • This helps solve the quantity issue. But data quality — a constant struggle in health care — remains an enormous threat to medical AI.

The big problem: Record keeping is so bad that doctors laugh when you ask about it.

  • Electronic medical records, central to CDS predictions, are notoriously error-ridden. Doctors fill them with generic diagnosis codes, and 82% of any given record is likely to have been copied or imported from elsewhere.
  • "Filling out documentation right is something that most physicians don't care about," says Jonathan Chen, a doctor and professor of biomedical informatics at Stanford.

Other quirks of health data make more problems for CDS systems:

  • Records reaching back even a year or two become useless for predicting future trends because of how quickly treatments shift. A study led by Chen found that medical data has a usefulness half-life of just 4 months.
  • Hospital readmission rates are a gold standard for measuring whether a particular treatment worked, but the statistic misses more important outcomes like patient happiness and long-term health.
  • Together, all this means that if doctors and researchers are not careful, "you'll end up learning patterns that are either obvious or you'll completely misinterpret what they mean in potentially dangerous ways," says Chen.

It's the oldest problem in data science: garbage in, garbage out.

  • "We are at a decided disadvantage because our core electronic record is so pitiful," says Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute.
  • The messy reality of medical records tripped up IBM's much-ballyhooed Watson AI system when it was deployed at a Texas cancer hospital. "[T]he acronyms, human errors, shorthand phrases, and different styles of writing" were too much to handle, Stat News reported in 2017. An IBM executive today blamed data quality for past AI failures.

What's next: The Food and Drug Administration, which currently doesn't review most CDS systems, is considering policy changes that could head off some data issues. Scientists are pushing the agency to impose strict benchmarks and audits to prevent mistakes.

Go deeper: What your hospital knows about you

Go deeper

18 mins ago - World

Netanyahu campaigns against Biden's plan to save Iran deal

Netanyahu campaigns at a gym last month. Photo: Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly criticized the Biden administration for its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and told his supporters he was prepared to "stand against the entire world" to stop it.

Why it matters: This is a major change of tune for Netanyahu, who had been careful in his statements on the Iran deal and avoided publicly criticizing President Biden. The statement was part of Netanyahu's attempt to rally his base ahead of Israel's election on March 23.

Updated 41 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Tech: "Fludemic" model accurately maps COVID hotspotsVirtual doctor's visits and digital health tools take off.
  2. Politics: Schumer says Senate will stay through weekend to vote on COVID relief — Republican governor of West Virginia says there's no plan to lift mask mandate.
  3. World: Canada vaccine panel recommends 4 months between doses.
  4. Business: Firms develop new ways to inoculate the public.
  5. Local: Ultra-rich Florida community got vaccinations in January.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Why fears of a SPAC bubble may be overblown

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The SPAC surge continues unabated, with 10 new ones formed since Wednesday morning. And that's OK.

Between the lines: There are growing concerns that retail investors are about to get rolled, with smart sponsors taking advantage of dumb money.